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The Salon Client Retention Guide
What is client retention?
Client retention is the maintenance of continuous trading with a client over a long term.
How to define and measure client retention?
Definition: Client retention is the number of clients still doing business with you at the end of the year expressed as a percentage of those clients who were active at the beginning of the year.
Salon management systems such as iSalon and shortcuts will measure client retention. You are able to interrogate these systems to see overall salon retention rates as well as individual stylist and therapist retention figures measure month-by-previous-month.
These are vitally important metrics that must be measured analysed and acted upon during staff appraisals and also used to determine salon staff targets.
You cannot manage what you cannot measure, so good client management software is an essential management tool.
Consider these facts from CTL Europe.
“A 2% increase in client retention has the same effect on profits as cutting costs by 10%”
“A 5% reduction in client defection rate can increase profits by 25-125%”
When you put client retention into the above context it becomes the salon owners No1 Priority.
Most salon professionals take clients for granted and do not look for opportunities to increase revenue from their existing clients or to ensure client loyalty which leads to life-long retention.
I will prove my “take clients for granted” point in a couple of paragraphs.
Real World Reality
The reality is that this new world we live in is competitive in ways that it’s never been before.
If you were to “interrogate” your top 10 clients about how many times they have been approached by a competitor either on the street or via direct mail or email and indirectly via radio and newspaper ads, salon window posters, external A frame boards and competitor salon websites they had visited, you might be surprised that you keep any clients at all.
The stark reality is that we all “have a price” and one day even your best clients will be won over by the competition if you don’t have FORMAL systems, training and procedures to ensure client retention.
Client Care Philosophy
Many salons have a “philosophy” about client service. Good salons even have this written in their employee handbooks. These philosophies are generally based upon “client satisfaction” via good creative and craft skills, doing good cutting, colouring, styling and therapeutic work and being polite.
Those are the things that the client takes for granted. That’s what they pay you for. Those are the things which are inherent in the meaning of the word professional. You get no credit for doing them well but you lose clients if you do them poorly.
So please remove craft skills and client satisfaction from the client retention equation because the larger picture of client retention is predicated upon recognising the competitive and changing nature of the salon marketplace and the changing nature and purchasing habits of the client.
Sophisticated salon marketers have a strong handle on what clients are coming to expect from their product and service providers. Consumer wants and needs have and continue to change and the success of your business lies in knowing how to address those needs in relation to keeping (and winning new) clients.
If you don't have this knowledge and if you don’t have total involvement in the client's hairdressing and beauty culture then you are in danger of losing that client.
Client retention requires more than the obvious factors of just doing good work. In fact, in this new dynamic business world it goes beyond having a personal/professional relationship with the client.
Proof that you take your clients (and your staff) for granted
The proof for determining if you take client retention for granted lies in two things:
1. You have a FORMAL system, training and procedure for client retention.
2. You accept that “you don’t know what you don’t know” (you lack knowledge).
If you do not have a formal client retention policy, procedure and staff training programme and if you have never considered or do not accept that you don’t know, what you don’t know then you sir or madam are guilty as charged and you take client retention for granted!
Good salons are managed by knowledgeable people who have an aggressive business development plan which is second only to being respectful, courteous, and polite and is sincerely based on having the best interests of their clients and their staff at the top of their agenda.
The KEY word in client retention in-particular and in salon management in-general is knowledge.
It is simply not enough today to be good at cutting, colouring and therapeutic services. The salon manager needs to learn new salon business management skills because the world has changed.
And salon management must accept this fact if they are to retain their clients (and win new ones) better than their competitors.
Your salon managers and staff need to be formally trained in client retention and column building strategies. To carry out this training and make it stick, you need to have a formal system for delivering the training, measuring performance and then carrying out remedial training.
The only way to achieve the above is to introduce a meaningful staff training, appraisal and personal development system. But you cannot introduce this system until (or unless) you have credible salon employee contracts with detailed job descriptions and a staff disciplinary system in place.
So it seems that we opened our conversation regarding client retention then we drilled down into a world of “professional people management” and “professional business development” skills...
If all of the above sounds too complicated or sounds like it could be too much hard work then unfortunately just as you come to believe that your relationship with your best clients and your best staff has become permanent you will lose them into the open arms of your competition. WHY?
Because the world, our industry and our consumers have all changed; we must evolve!
A contradiction – in client retention and business development methods?
It is the salon managers and each team member’s responsibility to:
1. Extract as much profitable revenue from the client on every visit
2. Increase average client spend
3. Get the client to visit the salon more frequently
4. Get the client to refer family and friends
5. Get the client to buy more services from the menu
6. Get the client to buy retail from the salon
After all a salon is a business like any other; it is in existence to make a profit for the salon owner and or the shareholders and to achieve this salon staff must be productive and its customers profitable.
It is also the salon managers and each team member’s responsibility to:
A. Communicate respectfully and politely with the client
B. Make the client fully relaxed and at home in the salon
C. Develop trust between staff members and clients
D. Have complete integrity for the real needs of the client
E. NOT to put the client under any undue pressure
Arguably the two sets of responsibilities above are contradictory, if not conflicting.
If you have been is salon management for any length of time you will have heard salon staff saying:
• I don’t retail because I don’t want my client to feel pressured
• I’m a stylist, not a sales person
• My client knows what she wants so I don’t try to sell her other services
• Clients visit the salon as often as they can afford it; nothing to do with me
• If my client uses a home box colour, there’s nothing I can do about it
• If my client retention is low it’s not my fault, it’s because we are too expensive
I am sure you could add many other excuses to the above list why salon employees are UN productive and UN profitable but the bottom line is simple.
• Team members who speak or think in the above terms have never had formal column development or client retention training. and
• Salon management possibly do not understand or know about formal client retention strategies.
When a new cutting, colour or therapeutic service is launched salon owners quickly organise training for it.
Please think about how often you have thought about, attended or organised Salon Marketing, column development, client retention and business development training for your staff.
Is there an imbalance? Is business development training part of your overall training programme?
Client retention strategy
Good client retention is impacted via two streams.
1. By salon staff who work to meaningful Client-Stylist workflow routines. and
2. By Salon Management who implement client retention initiatives (other than point 1)
Point 1. Is overseen and managed by the salon manager but it is the skill, knowledge and dedication to duty of salon staff that will make this aspect of retention good or bad and this result is dependent on employees level of understanding of client retention techniques determined by the training they have had during their career.
If salon management and their subordinates have never had formal client retention training then there should be no surprise if client retention is not what you want it to be.
Point 2. Is in the hands of salon management and it is not in the power of salon staff to impact on this. So salon management can never fully blame their staff if client retention is not as good as it should be.
Further. Salon management have to accept 100% of the BLAME if client retention is poor because it is salon management’s job to implement client retention training and strategies.